Energy Minister Angus Taylor says something has gone “terribly wrong” with wholesale and residential electricity prices, and it’s his job to fix it.
Taylor told the National Small Business Summit in Sydney today that as the new Minister for Energy, “my first and only priority is to reduce power prices”.
The Minister said electricity prices had “turned a corner” thanks to federal intervention in the gas market. Gas and coal are both on the agenda. “We need to leverage those resources, not leave them in the ground,” he said.
Angus Taylor: The Minister for Reducing Energy Prices
Taylor told the summit that the new PM “wants the Australian people to know me as the Minister for Reducing Electricity Prices”.
“Focusing relentlessly on price while keeping the lights on will require some truth-telling. There will be no ideology, no grand gestures one way or another, just a simple, pragmatic focus on the solutions.”
Describing recent energy policy as bogged down, Taylor said the schemes did not have Australian consumers in mind.
He added that price gouging by distribution businesses because of over-investing in networks was driving up power costs.
“Prices are no longer sustainable – for families, for pensioners, for businesses. When I talk to my constituents and small business owners in my electorate, and people around Australia, they tell me they want lower electricity bills. Not only want, but need.
“They’re struggling. They know instinctively that prices are too high because they remember a time when electricity in this country was abundant and cheap.”
Not a climate denier, but suspicious of emissions targets
Refuting accusations he is a climate sceptic, Taylor admitted he is “deeply sceptical” of the economics behind emissions reductions schemes. He said these were “dreamed up by vested interests, technocrats and politicians around the world”.
He also said he sees a “strong role” for commercially viable renewables like wind and solar power, alongside continued focus on coal and gas.
The Minister’s grandfather, William Hudson, was the first commissioner and chief engineer of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. “Renewables are in my blood, and have been from the day I was born,” Taylor said.
ACCC recommendations on electricity prices
According to Taylor the government intends to adopt ACCC recommendations to:
- Direct the ACCC to hold an ongoing inquiry into prices, profits and margins in the NEM (until 2025);
- Establish greater transparency in the wholesale market with enhanced powers around market manipulation; and
- Intervene if businesses don’t respond with divestment, fines and penalties.
“[The] loss of trust and the failure to deliver acceptable outcomes has reached the point where the government has no choice but to wield a big stick, which we will use if we have to. In my view, the alternatives to this approach are unacceptable.”